AZUSA, Calif. -- After scoring on its first shot of the game and keeping all of Azusa Pacific’s first 18 shots outside the goal through the first 74 minutes, the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked California Baptist had every right to believe it had a chance to upset the No. 2-ranked Cougars and clinch the NAIA Region II Women’s Soccer Championship and the accompanying automatic national tournament berth awarded to the regional champion.
However, in a matter of just over a minute, 69 seconds to be exact, sophomore forward Theresa Broad scored back-to-back goals to erase the 1-0 deficit, then completed her second career hat trick just 57 seconds after that with a third score. Broad found sophomore defender Katie Rorabaugh in front of the goal to set up a fourth goal in a 4-minute, 11-second span that sealed a 4-1 win over the Lancers that sent the Cougars to their 10th consecutive national tournament.
“We had a ton of chances and it just took us awhile to finally put them away,” said Cougar head coach Jason Surrell. “The good thing is we were creating chances throughout the whole game. Sometimes soccer is like that. I don’t know if 3 goals in 3 minutes is typical, but that was a pretty impressive display from Theresa.”
Azusa Pacific evened the game at 1-1 with just under 16 minutes to play when freshman midfielder Lynsey Domene controlled the ball after a frantic scramble for possession in the California Baptist penalty box. She found Broad for an open look just 6 yards out, and the sophomore forward tied the game just 1 tick past the 74-minute mark.
Junior midfielder Sarah Yoro set up each of Broad’s next 2 scores. Yoro’s cross from the right side was finished off with a Broad header at 74:10, and a perfectly-placed ball played over the top to Broad set up a breakaway opportunity for the Cougars’ scoring leader. Broad went right at California Baptist goalkeeper Emily Evanson and finished the chance over Evanson to complete the hat trick in a matter of just 2 minutes and 6 seconds.
“Getting Bridget (Brotherton) back and finding that continuity between those 3 up top makes a difference,” said Surrell. “The ball that Sarah played from 40 yards away that went right to Theresa in stride – that’s just forwards knowing what they want to do. Theresa has obviously done a great job, but it’s the group around her that’s put her into those opportunities.”
Just 2 minutes after her third goal, Broad took advantage of yet another dangerous opportunity, taking the ball to the goal line along the left side of the Lancer penalty area before playing it back in front of the goal to Rorabaugh, who finished the chance to round out the scoring for the game.
“We knew their defense held high and we just had to find it over the top,” said Broad, whose hat trick gave her a total of 13 career postseason goals in 10 games of regional and national tournament action over the past 2 seasons. “It was frustrating (having all those early shots without scoring), but we stayed composed. We knew we had to have a sense of urgency, but this team has the ability to stay calm in those situations. We knew we were the better team, we just had to put them away.”
Domene set the tone early, taking the game’s first shot just over 30 seconds into the game, but California Baptist took the early lead on Jacquelyn Witz’s strike from the top left corner of the penalty box just over 2 minutes into the game.
The Lancers did not take another shot before halftime, and Evanson made a pair of spectacular saves to preserve the 1-0 lead. With less than 19 minutes left in the opening period, Rorabaugh’s long free kick bounced around the area before it settled at the feet of senior midfielder Randie Massro 15 yards out. Massro found a lane through a crowd of Lancer defenders, but Evanson made a sliding block of Massro’s low line drive. With just over 10 minutes left before halftime, Yoro delivered a low cross from left to right in front of the goal. Junior forward Bridget Brotherton’s diving header to the near post was stopped by another of Evanson’s 8 saves in the game.
“I don’t think I need to say a whole lot to this group (to get them motivated),” said Surrell. “They wanted to win a regional championship. We were maybe a little too relaxed early on, and we felt like we needed to force the issue a little more in the second half. With this group, there’s just no panic or worry.”
Azusa Pacific finished with a 23-3 advantage in shots, the third time the Cougars have taken at least 20 more shots than its opponent in a game this season.
With the win, Azusa Pacific runs its program-record home unbeaten streak to 34 games, including a program-record 22-game home winning streak. The Cougars improve to 17-1-1 overall on the season, while California Baptist drops to 13-5-2. The national tournament bracket will be released by the NAIA national office on Thursday, Nov. 8.